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Local unemployed on roller coaster ride

Figures for 2010 show Callaway County’s jobless rate was on a roller coaster ride throughout the last year and it’s creeping back up.

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Like many other counties in Central Missouri, the unemployment rate in Callaway County was about 2 percentage points lower than the statewide preliminary figure average of 9.5 percent during 2010.

Bruce Hackmann, president of the Fulton Area Development Corporation (FADC), said he has noticed encouraging signs of a pickup in interest in business investment but he believes it still is too early to determine if the current downturn is ready to end.

“My organization is starting to see signs of more activity. Companies that have been on the sidelines for the last few years are starting to make inquiries looking for sites and possible buildings for new businesses,” Hackmann said.

Much of the activity, he said, has occurred during the last month. “It’s been almost as much as I have encountered during the last two years,” Hackmann said.

The county’s jobless rate reached its 2010 peak in February at 8.7 percent. It dipped to 7.0 percent in April then climbed steadily to 8.2 percent in July.

Then Callaway County’s jobless rate fell to 7.1 percent in October and climbed to 7.9 percent in December.

Most people have the perception that unemployment is going down steadily. But the data for the last year shows the jobless rate in Central Missouri, like the rest of the state, has been on a similar roller coaster ride throughout the year and is trending back up since last fall.

Since October, the jobless rate has been growing in Mid-Missouri. The increases in lost jobs include Callaway and the surrounding counties of Cole, Boone, Osage, and Montgomery.

In Callaway County the October 7.1 percent unemployment rate grew to 7.7 percent in November and 7.9 percent in December.

In Cole County the 6.5 percent jobless rate in October increased to 6.7 percent in November, and 6.8 percent in December.

Boone County’s October 5.9 percent unemployment rate increased to 6.1 percent at November and climbed to 6.2 percent in December.

In Osage County the 6.4 percent jobless rate in October held steady at the same number in November but edged up to 6.6 percent in December.

Montgomery County’s 9.2 percent unemployment rate increased to 9.9 percent in November and hit 10.7 percent in December.

Figures show the unemployment rate in Missouri peaked at 9.7 percent in July of 2009. The rate held steady at that same figure for four months through October of 2009.

Missouri’s jobless rate fell to 9.1 percent in June of 2010 but has increased steadily to 9.5 percent in December of 2010.

The data shows that the jobless picture remains essentially unchanged for the last one and one-half years throughout Central Missouri and the rest of the state. Although it has experienced some minor changes up and down, the jobless rate still remains above 9.5 percent.

In March of 2008, the unemployment rate in Missouri was only 5.3 percent. It shot up to 7.6 percent by the end of 2008. It peaked at 9.7 percent in July of 2009 and has trended sideways for the last one and one-half years.

Hackmann said he hopes recent inquiries will continue. “We don’t know if things are ready to rebound. We will have to wait and see. There are too many things out there that can affect economic activity,” he said.

Hackmann said many business owners are reluctant to invest now because of uncertainty. “They aren’t sure about the future of tax rates and even about the costs of health care. The state of Illinois has approved big tax increases. They put a burden on their businesses that wasn’t there previously. That could help Missouri if businesses decide to move here. But Missouri also has state government fiscal problems. We have had analysts tell us that the next two years of Missouri state government may be even tougher than the last two,” Hackmann said.

“Businesses just haven’t had the confidence to make the type of capital investments required to expand or start new ventures,” Hackmann said.

“A former Shell Oil executive back on Dec. 28 was quoted as saying that gas prices could reach $5 a gallon in 2012. To me, there are not many other factors that can bring this economy to its knees faster than extremely high gas prices,” Hackmann said.

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